Djokovic had arguably the greatest season of his career in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were the players to beat at Rome 2014. Two great rivals overcame all odds to set up the title clash. Novak went all the way, beating Rafa 4-6 6-3 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes to clinch his third title in Rome and a big boost heading into Roland Garros.
The one in Rome was Novak’s 19th Masters 1000 title, placing him two behind Roger Federer and closing the gap on Nadal. It was his 41st match and the Serb’s 19th win, the 15th in the last 23 clashes and the fourth in a row.
Djokovic took a 12-9 lead in the ATP finals and 7-5 in Masters 1000 title clashes. Novak defeated Rafa for the fourth time in 17 matches on clay and came from a set down to unseat the Spaniard. for the fourth time. Djokovic won 19 more points and held the lead in sets two and three, after firing 45 winners and 30 unforced errors.
Nadal took four return games, which was not enough to keep him safe. Novak took almost half of the return points and converted them in six breaks from 14 chances. Djokovic left Nadal far behind in the shorter rallies of up to four strokes and overtook him in the more advanced ones to win the trophy.
Despite not playing at his best level, Rafa gave 120% of him to stay in touch and challenge the world number 2. The Spaniard recovered the break midway through the decider before the Serb switched gears and took home the win.
Nadal said that he needed the extra energy in the closing stages to keep in touch with Djokovic, something that his legs would not allow.
Fritz opens up on Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has been the subject of heated discussions over the last few weeks as the tennis season heads towards the US Open.
“It’s tough. I think on one side of it, like I think it’s tough to make certain exceptions to the rules for certain people. I don’t know how I feel about that, but then, at the same time, it’s like, I mean, we’re not the most COVID-safe country in general with, you know, how we are doing things.
So it does seem like, you know, what’s the harm of letting the best player in the world come play the US Open?” Taylor Fritz said.
When asked if he would like to see Djokovic competing at the New York Major, the World No.13 was cheeky in his reply. “It’s good for every player if Novak is not in the draw,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know. Novak is one of the only people on tour that I have never beaten, so I don’t know”.